Our Worst Blizzards

Inside Dakota Ag

The blizzard that hit western South Dakota ranks with some of the worst blizzards to hit the U.S. in history. Unfortunately, several of the monsters happened in the Dakotas. History is repeating itself.

Published on: October 19, 2013

Atlas -- the blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle, sheep and horses in western South Dakota -- should go down in history as one of the top 10 worst snowstorms ion the U.S.

Here are some of the other monsters:

The Children's Blizzard -- Jan. 12, 1888. Temperatures dropped from a relatively balmy few degrees above freezing to a wind chill of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) in Dakota Territory and Nebraska. Because of the warm day, thousands were caught unprepared for cold weather, including schoolchildren sent home by their teachers during the storm. The death toll was 235.

The Great Nor-easter -- March 11-12, 1888. More than 400 people in the Northeast, the worst death toll in United States history for a winter storm. This devastating nor'easter dumped 40 to 50 inches of snow in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Huge snowdrifts buried houses and trains, and 200 ships sank in waves whipped up by fierce winds.

The Armistice Day Storm -- Nov 11-12, 1940. Mild weather ahead of an intense low pressure system tracking from Kansas to western Wisconsin was quickly followed by a raging blizzard. Many people were caught off-guard by the severity of the storm and the plunging temperatures. Sixty degree temperatures during the morning on the 11th was followed by single digit readings by the morning of the 12th. These very cold temperatures and snow amounts were very unusual for this early in the season. Up to 26 inches of snow fell in Minnesota, while winds of 50 to 80 mph and heavy snows were common over parts of the states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. These winds were responsible for whipping up 20 foot drifts. A total of 144 deaths were blamed on the storm most of which were duck hunters along the Mississippi River.

The Super Bowl Blizzard -- Jan. 9, 1975. Unlike many winter storms, which sweep in from Canada, the Super Bowl Blizzard started in the Pacific and crossed the Rocky Mountains. As it headed over the Plains, the first of 45 tornadoes spun up. The two-day outbreak killed 12 people and injured 377 and killed 100,000 head of livestock.

The White Hurricane -- Nov. 7, 1913. This blizzard with hurricane-force winds was the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the Great Lakes region. More than 250 people died when the winter whopper, called a November gale, struck the Great Lakes. Waves on the lakes reached 35 feet high and the storm's sustained wind speed reached 60 mph for more than half a day. The storm in 1925 which sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior was similar.